Written by Lisa Leitz (Editor, Independent Review)
Dust, mud, gravel, seeds, even small dead frogs…lots of things end up tracked inside homes and businesses out here in farm country.
“We really do it all,” said Tino Martinez last week at his family’s company office in Othello. Martinez, a soft-spoken young man with a shy smile, is the marketing director for Dura-Shine Clean, a residential and commercial cleaning company owned by the Martinez family that began when Tino was just fifteen years old.
And no, we’re not making up the frog part.
From cleaning Columbia Basin Health Association’s medical facilities in Othello, Connell, and Mattawa, to Whitman Bank in Royal City, to Lep-re-kon groceries in Mattawa and Othello, to the Syngenta seed plant in Warden, Dura-Shine employees are busy spiffing things up after most of us have gone home to bed.
The Othello family’s business had humble beginnings back in the early nineties, when one of the Martinez boys unexpectedly died. Dura-Shine’s executive director Carlos Martinez became somber for a moment when he talked about the family’s need to supplement their income in order to pay for this brother’s funeral expenses.
Their mother, Conception Martinez, was already working full-time on the processing line at Simplot, but she started cleaning evenings and weekends to help pay for her son’s funeral and also put food on the table, as did the other Martinez family members.
Truth be known, Carlos says, the family actually worked for another cleaning business in Othello for a little while. “And we couldn’t believe what we were being asked to clean with,” he said. “the chemicals weren’t good, we didn’t have the right tools, they didn’t give us enough time…we knew there had to be a better way.”
So the family put their seven heads together and started making phone calls. “We did our research,” Martinez said, which included contacting professional cleaning business associations. “We decided to do our homework and learn from the mistakes other people had made.” With the Martinez matriarch’s meticulousness, and her children’s willingness to work hard, the business soon took off.
The company received a “best of business” award for 2009 in the building maintenance services category from the Small Business Commerce Association in San Francisco. The SBCA award program recognizes the top 5% of small businesses throughout the nation, and uses consumer feedback to identify awardees. “Award winners are a valuable asset to their community and exemplify what make small businesses great,” stated a press release from the SBCA.
Some days, Carlos said, he wakes up and can’t believe the family’s success. They now employ about 60 people, 24 of those full-time, and have clients in a huge area ranging from Walla Walla to Yakima, Warden to Moses Lake.
The Martinezes attribute their success to hiring people who also believe in their mission. “We clean a building in the Tri-Cities where 600 employees work,” Carlos said. “So if just one of those employees notices their wastebasket wasn’t emptied one time, and says something to their boss on the floor, that makes us look bad,” he said.
The biggest issue in the industry is quality, he said. “A lot of people just think all cleaning companies are the same…people will do a good job for six months or so and then start letting you down,” he said. “We’re different.”
The company is responsible for seeing that their employees have the best chemicals, tools, and training to do a good job, he noted. The two Martinez brothers could barely schedule time to meet last week, since they were readying for a big employee appreciation dinner that they host for their workers every year. “We’re lucky, and we’re blessed…and we’ve got great people working for us and we’ve got great clients,” Carlos said.
The company’s first customer was the late P.J. Taggares, and even though Taggares’s building on Broadway in Othello was sold after his death, the company is still cleaning it – seventeen years later. “We’ve built our business wholly through word of mouth,” he said. “People know we do a good job, and we’ve had customers with us for twelve, fifteen years…and we clean pretty much this whole town,” he said, grinning.
What’s the biggest challenge the company has had to face? Carlos said he believes it’s staying engaged in the communities they work in.
“I consider Othello my home,” Carlos said. “I was born here, my wife was born here, my first child was born here.”
But he recently made the decision to move to Tri-Cities so he could follow the business there more closely, he said. The company owns a 5,000 square-foot warehouse where inventory, supplies and equipment are shipped. “It was a hard decision, but the company needed to grow,” he said.
But even so, Martinez said he still wants to be involved in the Othello community. “Making sure we’re still engaged here is really important to us,” he said.
Nobody in the family has a degree in business, but as the company’s gotten bigger, Carlos said they frequently rely on help from their attorney and accountant. “We had 35% growth last year…and that was a Recession year,” he said. “That’s pretty amazing…I’ll take that any year.”
Four of the five Martinez children still work for Dura-Shine, and that results in a little friendly family competition, Carlos said. The company recently received a call to clean at an event in Connell, and Carlos said when he talked to his mother about whether the Tri-Cities office Carlos manages or the Othello office his mother manages should handle the event, his mom promptly informed him her office would be handling the call.
“She said, ‘we clean better than you guys do,’ “, he said, laughing. “But that’s OK, that competition between those of us at the company – we’re always looking for ways to be better – that’s what makes us who we are.”
In the photograph:
The Martinez family: (front, from left to right) Dura-Shine president Concepcion Martinez, Carlos’s daughter Aleeza Martinez, and executive vice president and CEO Carlos Martinez. Back row: Marketing director Tino Martinez, distribution manager Florentino Martinez, operations manager Jonathan Martinez, office and human resources manager Mona Lisa Martinez, and account executive and business development manager Patricia M. Fernandez.